is truly a fascinating place to visit. With its spectacular scenery,
varied climatic zones, plethora of flora and fauna, diversity
of peoples, and interesting history, this country that stretches
from the Andes to the Amazon, provides many opportunities for
the business, student, or vacation traveler. Ten of the more
compelling reasons to visit Bolivia include:
1. Uniqueness: Como Bolivia no hay
dos is the Bolivian way of saying in Spanish that there is
no other place in the world quite like Bolivia.
2. Geography and Climate: Although located near the
equator, because of acute variations in altitude, every climate
from alpine to subtropical exists in Bolivia. Snowcapped peaks
pierce the clouds and reach more than 20,000 feet while Bolivia's
portion of the steamy Amazon basin is barely above sea level.
In some places the Andes are so steep, travelers are able to
cross several climatic zones within an hour or so.
3. Indigenous Nation: Unlike the United States
and some other countries in the Americas, Bolivia's indigenous
people have not only survived but constitute the vast majority
of the population. More than 80 percent of Bolivians are of indigenous
heritage. El Alto de La Paz is the fastest growing city in Latin
America and the largest Indian city in the world.
4. Diversity: Among Bolivia's indigenous
people there are the major groups such as the Quechua (descendents
of the Incas), Aymara, and Guaraní as well as many smaller
bands such as the Uru-Chipaya, Chiquitanos, and Mojos. In addition,
Bolivia is a land of immigrants with significant populations
of Spanish and other Europeans including Germans and Eastern
European Jews. There are Mennonites, Lebanese, and Japanese immigrants
as well as newcomer Koreans.
5. History: Bolivia's pre-Columbian
history predates the establishment of the Tiahuanaco civilization,
founded around in the first century BC on the shores of Lake
Titicaca. Later of course came the Incas and then the Spanish.
After more than 300 years of colonial rule, in 1825 Bolivians
gained their independence and subsequently pursued a slow and
sometimes tortuous journey towards democracy. Along the way,
each generation of Bolivians has left evidence of its presence.
These vestiges of history provide wonderful opportunities for
visits and further exploration.
6. Authentic and Unspoiled: Yes, things do eventually
change in Bolivia but more than any other country in the Americas,
visitors are still able to see virtually untouched forests, high
plains, rivers, lakes, marshlands, mountain valleys, and towering
peaks in a country larger than Texas and California combined.
In addition, the majority of Bolivia's indigenous peoples, and
even immigrants, continue to speak their native languages and
practice their heritage cultures even though many are able communicate
also in Spanish and participate in mainstream Bolivian society.
7. Culture: Everywhere you go in Bolivia
the native music, arts, and handicrafts are in view. Andean music
is especially unique and interesting. Traditional song, and dance
are performed nightly in folkloric venues called peñas
and are prevalent during the many festivals celebrated in urban
barrios as well as in rural villages.
8. Affordable: Travel in Bolivia for the
most part is a real bargain. Although airline fairs to Bolivia
can be a bit steep, once you arrive, you will be treated to world-class
services at inexpensive rates. Hotel and restaurant costs are
more than reasonable yet service and quality tend to be superior.
In fact, travel-associated expenses will run about half to a
third of what you are likely to pay in Europe or the United States.
Even when compared to its Latin American neighbors such as Argentina,
Brazil, or Chile, travel in Bolivia is significantly less expensive.
9. Adventure: The highest ski lift, golf
course, and swimming pool in the world are all found in and around
La Paz. Trekking in Bolivia is exceptional. Chose between ancient
Inca trails or newly scouted Andean paths. More adventurous mountain
climbers can test their abilities on some of the Andes' most
challenging peaks such as Sajama, Illampu or Illimani. There
are safaris and hunting trips in the Amazon basin by boat or
four-wheel drive vehicles. Mountain biking and climbing are very
popular. Participate in eco-tourism with a visit to one of Bolivia's
national parks such as Madidi, Noel Kempf, or Amboró.
You can traverse the altiplano and the Andes by train
or bus to Peru, Brazil, Argentina, or Chile. Explore the great
Salt Flats of Uyuni or visit the replicated indigenous villages
at a cultural complex on Lake Titicaca where you can experience
first-hand the traditional Aymara and Kallawaya cultures and
then cross the Lake to Peru on a boat or catamaran and continue
on to Cuzco and Machu Pichu if you like.
10. Third World But Safe: Bolivia is, of course,
a paradox. It is the most indigenous and poorest nation in South
America. Wherever you go in the country, you cannot escape the
signs of poverty and underdevelopment. Many of the very attractions
that draw visitors to Bolivia in the first place (e.g., the virgin
forest habitats and traditional indigenous culture) exist not
only because of the country's isolation but also in part because
Bolivia has failed to develop economically and politically. This
can present a variety of challenges to travelers. Fortunately,
in most cases, with a proper dose of preparation before traveling
and a few precautionary measures during your visit, the time
you spend in Bolivia will be safe, healthy, and enjoyable. In
fact, the data clearly suggest that you are more likely to be
a victim of untoward circumstances in Los Angeles, New York,
or London than in La Paz, Cochabamba, or even Santa Cruz de la
Bolivia Today, via our country guide,
visitors with the travel information and recommendations they
need for a successful, safe, and affordable journey to Bolivia.
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